A grieving family is hoping to inspire others to register as organ donors after a bride-to-be was able to save the lives of many when she unexpectedly passed away before her wedding.
Just weeks before Taryn Budd was set to marry her fiancé in a December 2017 ceremony, she went to take a bath in her Missouri City, Texas, home. But as she was taking her bath that morning on November 18, the 28-year-old suffered a brain aneurysm that caused her to drown in the tub.
“Paramedics were able to revive her and get her heart started,” Taryn’s mother, Stacie Budd, tells PEOPLE. “They got her to the hospital, but by that time she was already brain dead.”
On the day that was supposed to be her wedding day to Nicolas Milazzo, the family instead held a memorial service in her honor.
“Taryn could come into the room, and the room would light up,” Stacie says of her daughter. “She had a beautiful smile and was extremely giving. She was the type of person who always befriended others.”
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, ruptured brain aneurysms occur when there is a bulging spot on an artery in the brain, which weakens over time as blood flows against it. The bulge can then swell and with added pressure, the spot will rupture and release blood around the brain.
Aneurysms are most prevalent in people 35 to 60 years old, the foundation says, and an estimated 6 million people in the United States have an unruptured brain aneurysm. Of the people who experience a rupture, 40 percent will die, and 66 percent of those who survive will experience neurological problems.
Before Taryn was transported to the hospital, EMTs on the scene were able to revive her heart and keep it pumping. Because Taryn had opted to become an organ donor, doctors were able to harvest a collection of her organs on Thanksgiving morning that were then transplanted in multiple people—Taryn’s heart went to a 55-year-old father of two, her lungs and liver went to a 30-year-old woman and a 32-year-old woman received her kidney. It is a decision Stacie feels proud of Taryn for making.
“I’m proud of her decision, but it is bittersweet,” Stacie says. “Our tragedy and our loss gave joy and life to other families, and as sad as we are, as much as we hurt to lose her, knowing that other families have the ability for their loved ones to live on is heartwarming. It’s a miracle.”
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About 20 people a day die awaiting organ transplants, according to the American Transplant Foundation, and there are over 115,000 people currently on the waiting list to receive a life-saving organ. One donor can save up to eight lives, the foundation says, and can save or enhance the lives of a hundred others.
“If people realized that your organs can benefit and help many, many other people live a better life, I think they would be more likely to donate,” she says. “There’s a lot of ways to help other people and there are a lot of people out there that need it. If you needed a heart or a kidney or a cornea, wouldn’t that be nice knowing that somebody has given that gift to you?”
Doctors were also able to harvest tissue, bones and a cornea from Taryn, and those, too, may one day help someone in need. Stacie says she hopes Taryn’s story may inspire others to sign up as organ donors, which they can do here. Families of organ donors may see the benefit as well.
“I’m so hoping that one day I will be able to meet these people, because my daughter is living through them,” Stacie says. “Even though she is not here with me, knowing that her heart is beating in someone else gives me great solace.”